“Which path are you going to take,” asked the wolf,
“the path of needles or the path of pins?”
No. 12: Katie Manning
Q. Everything has the makings of a Greek chorus, cyclones included. How would they relate the comings and goings of Dorothy’s sojourn to Oz?
(after the Chorus in Oedipus Rex)
Gingham-clad niece of Em from thy Gulch-plagued Kansas star
Wafted to Oz afar,
What dost thou bring us? Thy house fills witches with fear.
Munchkins of Munchkinland, hear!
Hadst thou some love of home before this,
Or didst our circling winds reverse thy “somewhere” wish?
Skipper of golden roads, thou voice immortal, O tell us.
Safer than swirling cyclone,
On ruby slippers we call; O glitter-gilt travelers, to home!
Though the wizard is full of hot air,
His balloon canst take Dorothy there.
O, Lion and Tin Man, hug close,
And Scarecrow—spry thing—the one she’ll miss most.
From green city the farm girl fades, never to shake us.
Q. Your poem makes a compelling statement: “To this day,/ Dorothy is still not/ satisfied.” What’s missing from her life?
Her life is missing adventure. Falling into a pig pen and having a cranky neighbor (who can’t even successfully take away a small dog) doesn’t make Dorothy’s rural life exciting enough for her. Meeting new people, even the wicked witch she has to kill, makes her come alive. She spends her whole time in Oz trying to get back home, but what then? Does she really want to be home, or is she just feeling guilty and afraid that she’s killing her Auntie Em if she stays away because of Professor Marvel’s detailed lie? How long before she wishes to be somewhere more magical than the farm again?
Q. Fairy tales and fantasy are populated with guardians (Uncle Henry, Auntie Em) and protectors (Flora, Fauna and Merryweather from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty). Who has the tougher job?
I’ve never thought before about how similar these guardians/protectors are—both sets of caregivers are fully raising a girl who is not their daughter, and both are trying to keep their girls safe from an evil woman (although Dorothy’s real-world nemesis wants to get rid of her dog rather than actually killing her). Both sets of caregivers also fail: Miss Gulch does leave with Toto and Maleficent does succeed in getting Aurora to prick her finger. I can’t say with certainty that it is more difficult to raise an orphaned niece on a farm than to raise a princess in hiding in a forest, but I think I’ll give this one to Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. One of them apparently lost a sibling, and they don’t have the option of breaking out some magic wands when things get difficult.
Interview conducted by Fairy Tale Review Poetry Editor Jon Riccio.
Katie Manning’s poem “No Place Like” appears in The Emerald Issue of Fairy Tale Review.
No Place Like
A few months after
the storm, Dorothy asked
to paint the farmhouse
Her aunt and uncle
chalked this up
to her head injury,
and they wanted her
to be happy at home,
so they let her paint
the house, inside
and out. Then
white fences fell
to green. Later,
after her guardians
the gray barn
turned. To this day,
Dorothy is still not
the big green barn
is close enough
that on sunny days
when her city
sparkles, she swears
she can smell
poppies on her way
past the pigs
to the horse stalls, where
she daily forces
her old knees
to bend before
a thick, green curtain
the empty space
not to send her back.